Tualang Honey Vs Manuka Honey

Are there any differences in composition between Wild Tualang Honey (sometimes called Jungle Honey) and Manuka Honey that might lead us to believe there may be clinical advantages or benefits of consuming one or the other?   

Let's take an unbiased look at the research evidence.

But firstly, a note of caution:
Tualang Honey can vary in shade, owing to the different pollens and nectar gathered from a variety of blossoms visited by the bees, depending on the region where the bees were located. 

Hence, it's possible to purchase a dark Tualang Honey, called Black Honey (Madu Tualang Hitam) which is said to have a mild bitter-sweet taste.  There is a Yellow Honey (Madu Tualang Perang) which is described as having a slightly sweet sour flavor, and White Honey is said to taste more flowery.

Contrary to belief, Tualang Honey is not honey made from blossoms of the Tualang tree.  It is a multi-floral honey, not a mono-floral honey, like Manuka Honey.

This means that research concerning Tualang honey should ideally at least test all three available variants in order to present a complete picture, because the biochemical components may differ.  In my view, it is misleading to imply that any characteristic applying to one variant equally applies to the rest.

I have conducted this comparison with all effort to be as fair as I can.  

Composition Of Wild Tualang Honey Vs Manuka Honey 

I am aware of a published review comparing Tualang and Manuka honey which often appears in internet search results.  This 2013 review is by Sarfarz Ahmed and Nor Hayati Othman1, of the Department of Pathology, School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 16150 Kubang Kerian, Kelantan, Malaysia.   It is not necessarily stated within the review which type of Tualang Honey was assessed.

I am using this study whilst examining the references quoted therein to investigate the conclusions drawn.  

Acidity (pH)

  • In the Ahmed et al review1, Tualang and Manuka are stated to have a similar level of acidity.  As with other honeys, both Tualang and Manuka Honey are acidic.

    Tualang honey has a pH of 3.55 – 4.00 whereas Manuka honey has a pH 3.2 – 4.21 

Sugar content

The total sugar content is higher for Manuka Honey than for Tualang.

The balance of the main carbohydrates (glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose) within the honeys is a little different: Manuka Honey has a significantly higher  fructose content, Tualang honey has a higher proportion of maltose.   

Maltose is considered to be less sweet than some other sugars (fructose, sucrose and glucose).  However, the review is not clear which of the Tualang Honeys is being compared to Manuka Honey.

Tualang
Honey
Manuka
Honey
Total Sugar Content 67.5% 76%
Fructose 29.6% 40%
Glucose 30% 36.2%
Sucrose 0.6% 2.8%
Maltose 7.9% 1.2%

Trace elements

Trace elements (such as potassium, calcium, sodium) are not significantly different. 

Phenolic Acids And Flavinoids

Phenolic acids and flavinoids are known for their antioxidant capabilities (a number of chronic diseases are the result of ‘oxidative stress’ - i.e. imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body).

The Ahmed et al review1 states: 

"TH [Tualang Honey] contains more phenolic acids and flavonoids than Manuka honey and other local Malaysian honeys" 

Given that the review was a comparison of Tualang and Manuka Honey, it's unclear as to why 'local Malaysian honeys' was added to the statement (and comparison parameters), considering that it could potentially mislead the reader into thinking Tualang Honey has more phenolic acids and flavinoids than Manuka Honey. (The reference quoted for that particular statement refers to a comparison of Tualang and other Malaysian honeys, not Manuka).

However, on close inspection of the table presented within the review, it is clear that there are numerically more phenolic acids and flavinoids in Manuka Honey than Tualang Honey:

Number Of Phenolic acids/Flavonoids
Tualang honey
11
Manuka honey 19


It's worth noting that other studies published elsewhere reveal some variance in the listed compounds contained in honey.  For example, Cianciosi et al2 mention the flavinoid Isorhamnetin C16H12O7 as present in Manuka honey only, but this is not mentioned in the table presented in the Ahmed et al study.  Reviews and comparisons may vary.  


Conclusion

It seems that there may be some slight differences in the chemical composition between the honeys. The next step would be to understand whether these subtle differences are meaningful within the context of benefit to human health - i.e. are there any clinical differences between the honeys, and is one more beneficial to health than the other?

References:

1. Ahmed S, Othman NH. Review of the medicinal effects of tualang honey and a comparison with manuka honey. Malays J Med Sci. 2013;20(3):6-13.

2. Cianciosi D, Forbes-Hernández TY, Afrin S, et al. Phenolic Compounds in Honey and Their Associated Health Benefits: A Review. Molecules. 2018;23(9):2322. Published 2018 Sep 11. doi:10.3390/molecules23092322


 

 

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